Mid-week update

The FEHBlog trusts that his readers had an enjoyable Independence Day holiday. The FEHBlog certainly did.

The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the Congressional Budget Office to evaluate a BRCA amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R Tex.) that would allow insurers that offer ACA-compliant coverage to also offer non-ACA compliant coverage, most likely lower cost catastrophic protection against illness or injury.  “The action unfolded as Mr. McConnell continued to reach out to various senators while Congress is on recess. Mr. McConnell was forced to delay a vote before the recess amid defections from both conservatives and centrists. He is working to assemble a revised version the Senate can consider shortly after it returns to Washington.”  This amendment meets the FEHBlog’s criteria of allowing greater consumer choice. The FEHBlog thinks that allowing more choice will encourage people to pay more attention the exchanges.  The Journal adds that “Tweaks to the original Senate bill are likely to include more funding for opioid addiction treatment and possibly beefed-up funding for tax credits that help low-income people buy insurance.”

Speaking of opioid addiction, the Boston Globe’s STAT service offers an interesting perspective on the importance of crime lab and public heath official cooperation to stay on top of the massive problem.

Healthcare Dive reports that a new tranche of data has been added to the federal government’s Open Payments website. “Open Payments is a federal program, required by the Affordable Care Act, that collects information about the payments drug and device companies make to physicians and teaching hospitals for things like travel, research, gifts, speaking fees, and meals. It also includes ownership interests that physicians or their immediate family members have in these companies.” The payments totalled over $8 billion in both 2015 and 2016. You can look at gross data or individual provider data. The FEHBlog’s own internist reported $62 in payments which is about $3200 below the national mean. Be reassured. Have some fun!

On the bright side of pharmceuticals,  genomeweb tells us about small clinical studies “pointing to the potential of personalized anti-cancer vaccine strategies in individuals with advanced melanoma,” which is a very deadly disease.

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